With the central government deciding to decriminalise attempt to suicide, there is fresh hope for the release of civil rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila who has been on a fast-unto-death for 14 years.
“We are very happy to know that the government will have to release Sharmila once the law is changed. Whatever happens she will continue with her fight for the repeal of the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),” Sharmila’s brother Irom Singhajit told PTI from Imphal.
The family is, however, worried about what will happen to the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ if she is not forcibly nose-fed in Imphal’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital, a special ward of which acts as a prison for her.
“There will definitely be a risk to her life in that case but she will carry on her fast. Her resolve is very strong,” he said.
Demanding repeal of the AFSPA, 42-year-old Sharmila has refused to eat or drink anything since November, 2000.
On the charge of making an attempt to commit suicide, she had been arrested, released and then re-arrested from time to time. The maximum punishment under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code is a one-year jail term.
Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary recently told the Rajya Sabha that with the backing of 22 states and Union territories, the government decided to delete Section 309 of the IPC.